FORT ANN — Town Board members and residents alike seem to agree it’s important to preserve the Blossom Farm Cemetery, final resting place of at least two Revolutionary War soldiers. But after nine months, there’s still no agreement on how to save it.
Located on private land off Route 22 in Comstock, the cemetery was nearly lost to memory, it’s stones scattered and its boundaries unknown, before an effort was begun to reclaim the burial ground, which has been used as a cow pasture.
“I want to know where it is,” Deputy Mayor Gretchen Stark said during a recent Town Board meeting.
“I think everyone wants to help out,” Town Supervisor Darlene Dumas said.
“I think we should take it over after we define it,” board member Howard Denison said. “I think we should go forward with the idea of the town taking over the cemetery.”
For the past nine months, Debbie Camarota, a descendant of soldiers buried in Blossom Farm Cemetery, has attended every board meeting to push for the town to take control of the graveyard.
Camarota, who along with four others founded Friends of Blossom Farm Cemetery, has worked with Nancy Moore, who also has relatives buried in the cemetery, to research the land and petition the town for action.
The parcel is owned by farmer Ray Wilson, with whom the friends group has come to an agreement by which he will let the town take part of the cemetery.
“Everyone is waiting for the town to take it over,” Camarota said. “We want to do it, but we want to do it in partnership with the town. For nine months, we have jumped through every hoop the town has thrown at us.”
Camarota has requested a special meeting with the Town Board prior to its regular April 14 meeting to petition again for action. If the town takes ownership, a Skidmore College archaeology class will be able to study the cemetery this summer.
Town Supervisor Darlene Dumas said no special meeting has been scheduled.
There have been a variety of topics that have come up regarding the cemetery, which once held more than 100 gravestones but has been badly damaged in recent years.
The Town Board’s main concern now appears to be setting a precedent by which the town would be asked to take over other abandoned cemeteries.
“How many other private cemeteries are going to come out of the woodwork?” board member Floyd Varney wanted to know. “I am reluctant to say yes, because who knows if Uncle Joe is going to come and say he has a couple of soldiers in his yard.”
Town Attorney Jeffrey Myer pointed out there has been conflicting information on whether the cemetery was public or private, which could affect the town’s options.
At the Town Board’s March meeting, there was some disagreement over how much of the cemetery the town should take over.
Camarota’s group is willing to take just part of what appears to be the cemetery’s original outline, but Christine Milligan, president of the local American Legion post, said her research indicates there is more to the cemetery, and the town should take all of it because of its historical value.
Milligan, using research from satellite photos and maps, believes the site is 432 feet by 132 feet, rather than the 80-by-240 the Friends group is focusing on. Milligan’s estimate means the cemetery could take up roughly 1.3 acres.
“The Legion is asking the town to take it over. We will work with you on all cemeteries. We are willing to work with the board,” said Milligan, whose group has also obtained a grant to explore the Revolutionary War site at Battle Hill.
Denison went so far as to make a motion at the March meeting, calling for the town to take all the land that identified as having been a cemetery, but no other board member supported the motion, so it was not advanced for a vote.
“I think we should designate it as a piece of property of historical value,” Denison said. That could open the way for the town to take the land by eminent domain.
“I believe we should go forward and take over the cemetery,” he added.